Late Spring 2008
So often our society feeds us the line ''He/She is a true hero.'' The word ''hero'' is applied to professional athletes, celebrities, or people who have gained notoriety for one reason or another. Rarely is it a ''true hero'' situation. If we look around our own lives, at our own friends, our own neighborhoods, there is where we can find the true, unsung, everyday heroes.
One of my closest friends is the single mother of a handicapped child. The other day she told me about taking this child to a doctor's appointment. I sat there in disbelief listening to the details. Her daughter is now 16 years old. Taking your 3-year-old handicapped child to the doctor is one thing, but once that child is almost a full grown adult, as big as her mother, the task takes on a whole new dimension.
Kathryn is profoundly disabled. You can't reason with her, you can't cajole her; you can't really communicate with her at all. My friend basically has to physically maneuver her into doing what is needed. When Kathryn decided between floors that she wanted to open the elevator doors and get out, my friend had to stop her, using every bit of strength in her body.
Although Kathryn has an entourage of people tending to her physical needs, my friend doesn't have anyone in her life to share in the sadness, the scary times, the decisions that need to be made, and conversely, she has no one to share in the small joys when Kathryn makes a little progress or smiles her big smile, or seems to finally grasp a concept she has been struggling with. She has no one to sing silly songs to Kathryn with, no one to go on the car rides that Kathryn loves so much -- she does this all by herself. But you know what? I have never, ever heard her complain about any of these things. Kathryn is her daughter and like any mother, she'll do whatever needs to be done to ensure the well-being of her child.
Now, my friend isn't a hero because she does what any mother would do. She is a hero because she does it all alone and never loses sight of what is really important. She loves Kathryn, and that is all that matters. Often, I ask myself what I would do in her shoes. Would I be that brave? Could I take care of a profoundly handicapped child alone for even an hour? Could I do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart as she does? To be honest, I just don't know.
My friend is someone I look up to as a hero. She is a person I try to emulate when faced with a daunting task -- if she can do what she does, then I have nothing to complain or whine about. This spring, let's try to identify the true heroes in our lives and appreciate them, help them when possible, and try to pattern a bit more of our own lives after theirs.